Everything but the Girl

Roadkill


Austin Music Hall Friday, November 22

At a career dead end a couple of years ago, Everything but the Girl pulled off a facelift of Michael Jackson proportions.

Ben Watt, who does Everything but the Singing (Tracy Thorn handles that), began to incorporate break beats, jungle, drum-and-bass, and techno into EBTG's sparse but unmistakably pop sound. The results first appeared on Todd Terry's 1994 remix of Amplified Heart's "Missing," which became a gigantic hit, then on this year's Walking Wounded, an arresting album that couches society's emotional coldness and isolation from each other in the starkest of club rhythms.

We Yanks might be shocked at such a change, but Watt says Britain's musical atmosphere is literally buzzing with those kinds of crossovers. "Everything influences everything in England," he says. "Noel Gallagher from Oasis has just sung on the new Chemical Brothers record. There it is, in cartoon form."

So even Oasis has been bitten by the dance bug. We understand that those lads are quite a bit bigger on that side of the pond. Why is that? "It's the punk in Oasis that goes down badly in America," says Watt. "Even 20 years after punk, that legacy is still really strong within English rock music -- that arrogance, that element of disgust, that kind of `fuck-you' quality. Its form is particularly English, and it was there in the Stone Roses, in the Happy Mondays. It's a form of expression which I just don't think goes down very well in America.

"Just look at the charts. You can see that the British charts and the American charts really don't feature the opposite country's artists very much anymore."

Nevertheless, Oasis and Everything but the Girl are two of the very few British acts to make a noticeable impact on the American charts recently. This begs the question: What kind of American music is big over there?

"Mariah Carey has hits," Watt says. "Boyz II Men -- that crosses over and gets played on the radio over here. At a kind of rock level, R.E.M. is still huge."

How about hip-hop?

"No. It's very respected, and it's written about a lot in the press, but it doesn't really make that crossover in a big way."

Jazz?

"No. Jazz in the U.K. is tiny."

What about country?

"This is turning into a weird interview."

-- Christopher Gray

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